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Date of Passing: Nov 29, 2020

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Russell Simmonds passed away peacefully on the morning of November 29, 2020, with family at his side.
His three sons, Russell (Sarah), James, and Patrick (Michelle) will greatly miss him, as well as his sister Christine, and close friends who have shown great compassion and commitment over the years. He is also survived by his son, Cade, from a previous marriage. Russell was predeceased by his wife Madeleine, and brother Gary. This past September saw the birth of his first grandchild, little Olivia, of whom he was incredibly proud, and brought him great joy.
Russell grew up predominantly in Winnipeg and left home young to establish himself. His early years were colourful when recounted; filled with stories of hitchhiking as a teenager across Canada, a stint training to become a pilot with the RCAF, and acting in the local Winnipeg theatre scene. He chose to stay in the prairies and often reflected on the beauty of the endless wheat fields and the possibility this landscape suggests.
He put himself through university, obtaining a Psychology degree from the University of Winnipeg, and while an employee at the City of Winnipeg, was offered a bursary which allowed him to attain a Masters of Social Work degree from the University of Manitoba. Most of his career was spent at the City of Winnipeg, eventually becoming the Director of Social Services, and was rightfully proud of what he accomplished. He exhibited thinking in that role regarding the relationship of work, education, and welfare that was ahead of its time. Retirement did not suit him and he returned to work, this time with the Liberal Party as a Special Assistant to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, where he embraced new challenges, with one of his most cherished roles being a postwar election observer in Kosovo. Ultimately he ended his work career to tend to his wife of thirty years and her terminal illness, and then endeavoured to fill the vacuum her loss left in the family.
He will be remembered by his sons as an inspiring man of character, who was supportive of them yet quick to offer his dry wit, an intellectual and avid reader, and as a snappy dresser who loved a proper meal and drink. His legacy will continue in his sons with the values he and Madeleine instilled in them.
The family would also like to thank Heide and Robyn, whose tremendous help allowed him to remain in his own house, and were great companions and support to Russell.
A service will be held in the spring.
In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research or Parkinson Canada.

E.J. Coutu & Co. Funeral Directors

As published in Winnipeg Free Press on Dec 12, 2020

Condolences & Memories (7 entries)

  • I was saddened to hear of Russ’s passing. I worked with him for over 20 years and consider him a mentor and friend. Russ was always ahead of the curve of the issues still being debated by social workers today. He believed that persons needed various degrees of help to break the cycle of poverty. This was achieved by a process of setting expectations, providing counselling and information coupled with financial assistance, work training skills and work experience in a supportive setting. Russ sought funding and encouraged the development of programs not only for the department’s clients , but for staff as well. Many department employees were able to take advantage and benefit from these programs. Russ was a champion for the advancement of minorities in civic employment and his own department. One of his greatest legacies was the development of a program that saved Winnipeg’s boulevard elms from the scourge of Dutch Elm disease that was ravaging elms in cities like Minneapolis. The sanitation program continues to this day and so do our stately boulevard elm trees. Rest In Peace dear friend. - Posted by: Dan M. Kosheluk (Friend and colleague) on: Dec 16, 2020

  • My condolences to the boys. I only met your father once but found him to be very impressive and interesting. I also remember my mother was most impressed by the care and devotion he showed to your mother during her illness. God bless, - Posted by: Joseph Langan (Family friend) on: Dec 13, 2020

  • Russ and I were best friends in our early years at Greenway School in the 40's and during the war years. We were classmates and played together. He was a good guy to be with. We liked the same sports and the same cute girls in our class. We spent a great deal of time in each other's home. I got a diary one Xmas and started to enter my goings on and looking back at it I noted how often I mentioned Russ. His younger brother was my younger brother's friend as well. Russ went on to work in the social field for the City of Winnipeg while I went into the practice of law. We would meet occasionally and talk about our careers and the old days at Greenway. I remember him as a smart and honourable person and respected him for his wit and character. God bless his soul. - Posted by: Michael Mercury (Friend) on: Dec 13, 2020

  • I am very sad to hear of Russ's passing, and that I was unable to visit him during these last several months of Covid (although he seemed to think it was still a good idea!). As his Secretary and then Admin Assistant at Social Services so very many years ago, Russ taught me more about writing than I ever learned in school. He always supported people in striving to be their best and I will always be appreciative of that. He was an uncommonly intelligent and creative man. When I left Social Services we maintained a lasting friendship and I am grateful to have known such a man. I will miss him. - Posted by: Diane Trenholm (Friend) on: Dec 12, 2020

  • Dear Russ, I remember you fondly. I was a new graduate when I started work with City of Wpg Social Services. At the time I had just stated univ in the BSW program. Your words of encouragement and support helped me tremendously while I worked and attended school. I was the very first worker to graduate while working for you and Karen. For this I am forever grateful. You were always kind and caring. I remember your card of commendation for my work with those young single moms. Your spirit of what the community needed shown through in the development of this important work that took us all the way to The Supreme Court. Today I am retired and look back with extreme fondness my work with you and Karen. RIP Mr Simmonds. You left the world a better place. - Posted by: Kim Hansen (Former employee ) on: Dec 12, 2020

  • Russ was my boss, a mentor (at times my nemesis) and a friend for 45+ years. He was a truly unforgettable character who was intellectually curious and never short of creative ideas. He was entertaining and always added drama to ordinary circumstances as well as extraordinary situations. He had a quirky sense of humor; some of the socially-inappropriate nicknames he gave to the people we worked with still stick in my head. Though he never travelled much, he was well-read and always knew way more than I did about the places around the world I had actually visited. Russ was an optimist; even during the final difficult years when he lay in a hospital bed, he spoke about the things he was planning to do when he could walk again. He loved his family and was proud of his sons and their accomplishments. My condolences to them. He will be missed. - Posted by: Leslie King (friend) on: Dec 12, 2020

  • My condolences to Russ’s family. Russ was the director for the majority of my career at the City of Winnipeg Social Services . I have great respect for his committed to excellence, his creativity & his constant striving to create employment opportunities & better the lives of those on social assistance through innovative programs & partnerships. Russ was instrumental in my returning to University to complete my Masters degree as he was an advocate of a highly trained & educated workforce & encouraged myself & several other employees to further their education & training. Russ was not adverse to controversy & I have many memories of butting heads with him on some issues. He also adopted a walking around policy — where he (the director) could frequently be spotted in one of the social workers offices - picking their brain, keeping a breast of front line issues often resulting in new programs or initiatives. I always appreciated his willingness to enable his managers to try new initiatives as “pilot projects”, he never shied away from trying anything new - but you had to of course make a case for it & timing was often critical. I remember many lively work discussions while lunching at Rae and Gerry’s. Russ certainly left his mark on the Social Service system & those he worked with. An intelligent man passionate about his beliefs. He impacted the lives of many through his work - I know he had a big impact on me. Rest In Peace Russ. - Posted by: Karen Mitchell (Co worker ) on: Dec 12, 2020

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